Pirates Capture First C-USA Championship
May 8, 2010
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The East Carolina softball team claimed its first Conference USA regular season championship Saturday afternoon with a pair of shutout victories over Memphis. The Pirates (38-16, 15-5 C-USA) took the first game 3-0 and the second 8-0. It is the first regular season title for the ECU program since winning three consecutive Big South championships from 1997-99.
Seniors Marina Gusman-Brown and Vanessa Moreno each hit a home run in the opener before Gusman-Brown hit another in the second contest. The duo combined to drive in seven of ECU's 11 runs in the two games. Sophomore Priscilla Velasquez also chipped in during the second contest, going 2-2, scoring two runs and driving in another.
In the first game, junior Toni Paisley (26-9) recorded her 11th-straight C-USA shutout as she surrendered four hits and three walks. She also struck out 12, marking the sixth time she has fanned at least 10 in a league contest. Memphis' Vanessa Walle (8-11) lasted the first three innings for the Tigers (24-24, 8-14 C-USA), giving up three runs on three hits and a walk. She also struck out a pair. Lauren Carley came in and threw the final four frames, allowing only two hits and a pair of free passes while striking out four.
In the second contest, sophomore Faith Sutton (12-7) surrendered only a first-inning single and a fifth-inning walk in blanking the Tigers. Sutton also struck out six in her third-straight shutout. Carly Hummel (14-10) went three-and-two-thirds innings, allowing five runs on six hits and three walks. She also fanned six. Janelle Valle threw the remaining three-and-a-third. She surrendered three runs on five hits and a walk.
In the opener, the Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning when Gusman-Brown started the frame with a solo home run to right center. Classmate Kaui Tom followed with a walk before senior Cristen Aona sacrificed Tom to second with a bunt. With one out and Tom on second, junior Sissy Jimenez hit a ground ball to the first baseman, who couldn't make the play, putting runners on first and third with one out. Jimenez stole second base, but a strikeout and groundout ended the threat.
Memphis tried to rally in the bottom of the second as Heather Mott recorded the Tigers' first hit with a one-out double to the gap in right center. After a foul-out, Mott advanced to third on a passed ball. A groundout back to Paisley by Alex Marshall left Mott stranded.
East Carolina added two more runs in the top of the third with a two-run home run by Moreno. Classmate Charina Sumner led off the inning with a single up the middle and came home on the Moreno homer. The hit for Sumner was the 225th of her career, giving her sole possession of seventh on the ECU all-time list. It was the 10th time this season the Pirates hit at least two home runs in a contest.
With two outs in the bottom of the third, Memphis' Lelani Bernardino singled through the right side and advanced to second on a passed ball. Maddie McKinley hit a ground ball to Tom at shortstop, who could not field the ball cleanly, putting runners on the corners with two outs. Leigh Rowan popped out to Tom on the first pitch to close the inning.
The Tigers threatened again in the bottom of the fourth but could not push a run across. Walle led off with a single to shallow center that fell just out of the reach of a diving Sumner. Shanna Brown entered to pinch run for Walle. After a strikeout looking, Paisley walked Jessica Phillips to put runners on first and second with one out. A strikeout swinging followed, but Keanah Prestridge drew another free pass to load the bases with two outs. Paisley escaped by striking out pinch hitter Nikki Moreno.
Memphis put a runner on in the fifth, but was retired in order in the sixth for the first time during the game.
In the top of the seventh, Sumner led off with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior Christina Merrida and went to third on a passed ball. Moreno drew a walk with one out to put runners on the corners before a strikeout and pop-out ended the threat.
Paisley retired the Tigers in order in the seventh to seal the victory.
In game two, the Pirates loaded the bases in the top of the second but could not convert. Gusman-Brown received a leadoff walk. Tom struck out, but Gusman-Brown stole second on the third strike. A lineout followed before Jimenez drew a walk and Velasquez was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs. A strikeout ended the threat.
East Carolina took a 5-0 lead in the top of the fourth. Gusman-Brown led off with her second home run of the afternoon. It was Gusman-Brown's 12th long ball of the season, tied for the fifth most in a year in program history. Tom followed with a single to left field and advanced to second on an Aona sacrifice bunt. After a strikeout, Velasquez delivered a two-out single into right field that plated Tom for a 2-0 advantage. The single for Velasquez snapped a 1-34 slump. Freshman Kai Clark beat out an infield hit and Sumner walked to load the bases with two outs. Sophomore pinch hitter Suzanne Riggs as hit by a pitch to force in Velasquez for the third run of the inning. Moreno came through with a single to left field that drove in Clark and Sumner for a five-run advantage. Memphis then brought in Valle. She struck out Gusman-Brown, but a wild pitch allowed Gusman-Brown to reach first and load the bases. A strikeout brought the inning to an end.
The Pirates tacked on another run in the top of the fifth to make it a 6-0 advantage. Jimenez and Velasquez recorded back-to-back singles with one out. A fielder's choice moved Jimenez to third and she scored on a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the fifth, Mott led off with a walk but a sacrifice bunt, pop-out and strikeout ended the frame.
East Carolina added its final two runs in the seventh inning. Jimenez led off with a double to the gap in right center. Velasquez was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs. A groundout by senior Nicole Jordan advanced the runners up a base. A groundout followed, but Merrida singled into left center to drive in Jimenez. Moreno then singled through the left side to play Velasquez for the 8-0 score.
Sutton retired the Tigers in order in the bottom of the seventh to preserve the C-USA title for the Pirates.
East Carolina goes for the three-game series sweep tomorrow at 1:00 p.m.